True Life Companies has adopted the state’s “builders’ relief” legal provisions to seek automatic approval to bulldoze a 67-year-old swimming and tennis club and build 85 homes in San Jose.

The Denver-based developer used a housing loophole to prompt approval for plans to replace the San Jose Swim and Racquet Club at 1170 Pedro Street in Willow Glen, According to the San Jose Mercury News.

The builder remedies, which have not been tested by law, allow developers to bypass local zoning rules in cities that have not yet received approval for a state-mandated housing program, so long as those projects include affordable housing for low- or moderate-income families.

This week, the San Jose City Council Approves plans to build at least 62,200 homes More than half of these homes will be affordable by 2031. But the plan has passed a Jan. 31 deadline and has yet to be certified by the state, leaving San Jose to turn to builders for a remedy.

Developers have already cited the policy in an attempt to move forward with at least 14 projects in the South Bay, according to planning officials.

According to The Mercury News, only about a quarter of the Bay Area’s 109 cities and counties have a “housing element” signed off by state regulators (the program is called “housing element”).

In April, True Life submitted plans for 85 “accessory dwellings” on the 3.3-acre leisure complex, built in 1956 and owned by the San Jose-based Norman Laviere Trust. Its seven tennis courts and two swimming pools have been used by generations of local residents.

True Life had previously notified San Jose planners of its intention to use a loophole in state housing law to seek fast-track approval for the project, 20 percent of which is affordable.

The master-planned land use for the city’s swimming club grounds is “private recreation and open space,” which generally does not allow residential development.

But builders’ remedial strategies can move housing development forward quickly without requiring changes to the master plan.

A lawyer for True Life said in a letter to the city in March that since San Jose has not yet adopted the state-mandated plan to add housing, the developer is submitting the application “subject to builder remedies.”

City planners said the project violated the city’s general guidelines, was too tall, could harm the Los Gatos River, and was not in a target area for future urban development. More than 400 local residents have signed online against the project.

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— Dana Bartholomew

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